Professional and Career Development of Medical Students

Professional and Career Development of Medical Students

Sophia Chen, Christin Traba, Sangeeta Lamba, Maria Soto-Greene
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1468-9.ch016
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This chapter reviews the steps for professional and career development of medical students. While the two overlap, there are distinct differences in preparation of students for lifelong professional vs. career development. Professional development involves professional/social identity as well as professional competence. Authors describe curricular implementation to help students achieve professional competence, including specific tools to form professional/social identities and recognize unconscious biases, essential for personal growth, psychological health, and successful careers of future physicians. In parallel to professional development, career specific advising must start in Year 1 of medical school as well. This chapter delineates the differences in academic vs. career advising, advising versus counseling, and a stepwise approach by medical school year to help guide students to their ultimate career path exploring career specialties to choosing one and ultimately preparing for residency.
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Professional Development Of Medical Students


Professional development as a doctor involves the formation of the professional/social identity and professional competence. Professional identity may be described as how individuals think of themselves in the profession. Social identity is how individuals think of themselves based on membership within social groups. This professional identity with its associated skills is essential for personal growth, psychological health, and a successful career as a future physician. Professional competence is the habitual and judicious use of communication, knowledge, technical skills, clinical reasoning, emotions, values, and reflection in daily practice for the benefit of the individual and community being served (Epstein & Hundert, 2002). General considerations for medical student professional development under domains of professional competence, professional identity, and curricular implementations are described below.

Students often matriculate to medical school from college. They are familiar with their role as a student but may have never held a job, or held the responsibility for an organization’s outcomes or received difficult or negative feedback. Therefore, it is critical that medical schools empower students to act and think as professionals and this involves providing students the tools to form their professional and social identity. The 5 key skills for a student’s professional and social identity formation include 1) self- awareness and understanding unconscious biases, 2) accountability and professional standards, 3) teamwork and communication, 4) leadership skills, and 5) resilience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Clinical Reasoning: Also known as clinical judgment; the process of obtaining history and physical exam findings (signs/symptoms), then processing this information to understand the problem(s), develop a differential diagnosis, and implement a management plan.

Feedback: Discussing observations and recommendations with a learner with the goal to either improve specific behaviors or reinforce specific good behaviors.

Unconscious Bias: Also known as implicit social cognition or implicit bias; attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.

Advisor: For purposes of this chapter, refers to individuals providing academic and career instruction. An advisor may provide clarification to procedures within the institution, insight into a student’s academic performance and how that relates to future career goals, including career options.

Conscious Bias: A set of attitudes and beliefs that we have toward an individual or group at a conscious level; deliberate thoughts in response to a perceived threat.

Mentor: While a mentor can be considered an advisor, this implies an ongoing relationship, often being a role model for the student and providing the student with longitudinal time and support.

Counselor: For purposes of this chapter, this refers to individuals with graduate-level training to provide personal counseling services.

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